Open Letter To Transient Worship Leaders



Dear Worship Leader,

I have had hundreds of conversations with worship leaders about wanting, needing, or having to relocate. It’s been my observation that a couple of common threads are contributing to this restless desire and/or mandate to find another ministry position. Ironically, neither of those root causes are musical or stylistic issues.

My first observation is there is often confusion between calling and convenience. The primary question you must ask is, “Am I called to do this…not just here, but anywhere?” A calling is a personal invitation from God to carry out a unique task. It is a strong inner impulse prompted by conviction of divine influence and it’s not always convenient.

So what is compelling you to do what you do? Convenience responds with, “This is what I was trained to do.” Calling responds with, “This is what I was created to do.” If you are leading worship just because you love to play and sing; because you need to supplement your income; because you enjoy being up-front or because you are not trained to do anything else, then your compulsion might be out of convenience instead of calling.

If, however, you are divinely called to lead worship and believe God also called you to your present place of ministry, then a secondary question you must ask before considering a move is, “Has God released me from my call here?” Even when another place of ministry seems more convenient, appealing, challenging, fulfilling and rewarding you must be reminded that God did not promise you’d always be happy, revered, loved, appreciated or followed. So, until God releases you to go…stay.

My second observation is that musical talent and platform presence may help you secure a worship leader position but developing leadership skills will help you keep it. In fact, the root cause of forced termination is often relational and rarely musical. And yet, where are you spending most of your worship leadership preparation time? You’ll never be able to teach enough new songs to make up for relationship and leadership failures.

Leading music doesn’t necessarily equate to leading people. Meaningful relationships develop as you place more focus on the people than the project. Don’t leave relationships in your wake as you move toward the end result since the process with people is just as important as the end result. What will your congregants remember most about your worship leadership…how you led them musically on the platform our how you treated them on the way to and from the platform?

It may indeed be time for you to consider a new place of ministry. But that change of venue alone might not settle your restlessness. Until you consider the previous observations and others, you may again experience the same discontent after a couple of years in that new place of ministry.


20 Responses to “Open Letter To Transient Worship Leaders”

  • An Open Letter to Restless Worship Leaders Says:

    […] This article originally appeared here. […]

  • Bill Fithian Says:

    Good article. Prayer over process. People over program. These are lessons my pastor taught us recently during a Bible Study. I have also learned that when we lead in worship, we are in the presence of the throne room of God even if no human being is present. Indeed the Lord is present with His heavenly hosts as you praise Him.

  • Peter Says:

    Most of the people I know who’ve had to “move on” from one place to another in this game have not done so for any of these reasons in the article.

    They have done so because a church got bored with them, or just decided they needed something “fresh” in terms of a “new guy”. They put a spiritual face on it, but that’s the story.

  • Mark Says:

    my apologies for the grammar and punctuation errors as I am using a voice to text app on my phone to post here.

    I have learned that if I want a worship leader I need to seek out a worship leader and if I want someone gifted in administration I have to seek out someone gifted in administration and if I somehow want a hybrid that can handle both that’s a position that really isn’t supported by Scripture so it’s not that it’s impossible to find but it is quite rare and the fact that we would talk about firing either a worship leader or someone that is great with administration because they’re not that great at the other item really reveals our own issues more than anything else.

  • Mark Says:

    I have been on both sides of this issue having a hand in starting several churches personally over the years and also leading worship in other churches and what I have seen is what I call the great disconnect.

    I appreciate David’s question on how to handle that situation because in reality that situation plays out all over the country on Sunday mornings from coast to coast where you have an extremely talented and gifted worship leader with poor administration skills. I believe the solution is to simply a sign and if you can afford to then hire a personal assistant for the worship leader because if they truly are called to lead worship and you want to get rid of them because they don’t have a skill that is not part of their calling then I would argue it is you who are indeed pudding human requirement above the call of God on the person’s life.

    the list of leaders in the Bible that weren’t really that great at administration is quite lengthy and while some stand out as very administrative the majority do not and we see in this that God tends to place his call and His anointing up on those whose hearts are truly his as opposed to those who have great track records of administration.

    don’t misunderstand me because I completely get it that you have to have administration in place for something to work right so I’m not opposed to that in any way…I’m simply saying if you need more administration out of a certain office then put somebody in place to do that so that the person that has the calling can either be men turned into a position where they can do what you’re asking them or again the better solution is to simply a sign them either of volunteer or a paid Stafford that will be an administrative assistant to free them up to flow as God has called them to flow.

    this is probably a little deep and maybe too deep for a response to this blog but what I have seen over the years is win situations like this come up it’s usually the Holy Spirit trying to reassert a desire and maybe even a dominance toward his very presence out of those who are more administratively gifted so this can create and even restore a proper spiritual balance inside of a given fellowship.

    set a different way those that have God’s calling to minister are always to be preferred over those who God is called into administration much like the original apostles coming to the conclusion that they should not be taking care of tables because of the magnitude of the giftings got it placed at their disposal when others could easily be elevated to take care of those tables free them up to flow and function in what God called them to do.

  • Tim Says:

    Great words. I can’t tell you how timely this is for me to read.
    Thanks for your obedience, my friend.

  • Bob Fleener Says:

    Same principles apply to short-term preachers David. Our churches have an overflow of preachers and a drought of pastors.

  • Paul Clark Jr Says:

    What a great word — never more important than in this day when church culture is one of transience, and what we need is transformation that comes from renewed minds, reformed lives, humbled Spirit-sensitivity. Recommending this read to constituents.

  • Randall Hall Says:

    David–good insight on all points. I do have one thought to lay at your feet–while you are discussing a sense of calling to a particular place of ministry within the scope of a larger call to ministry, does our present church culture alter or hinder that sense of calling? What I mean is, in years gone by, many of us ministers of music were “called” by a congregation (after countless conversations, committee meetings, etc.) and voted upon by the entire body. Now, in many churches, the worship pastor is simply “hired” by the senior pastor–it doesn’t create the same sense of calling to the place of ministry but more of a sense of calling to a particular person. Just a thought…..

  • Conor Scholes Says:

    Great insight. Sometimes I think the average tenure of a worship pastor is 18 months because that is when we run out of “our bag of tricks”. Relationships and communication are the important, more difficult part of ministry.

  • David Manner Says:

    I received the following post from a Senior Pastor. For confidentiality I have removed his name:

    Here’s a question. I’m a senior pastor working with a worship leader. He’s pretty good on a Sunday morning. His talent is apparent. But it’s behind the scenes stuff that aren’t really getting done. I’m staring at a time sheet that he knows to fill out but left his leave time from last week blank. I’ve asked him to email his team members and it doesn’t get done. I’ve supervised him toward fulfilling the job description laid out before him (in which he said he’d fulfill) three times now because things don’t get done.

    He was hired for not only his talent but also his resume in which he had experience in administration. The last sit down with him I went over some of these things and his response was “I thought this was more about ministry than about politics. It feels like I have to accomplish all of these little things when I come to work and I just want to do ‘ministry’.”

    I see him failing to see that LEADING people in interpersonal relationships (administration basically) is leading people to not trust his leadership. He loves people, he loves music, he’s got a great love for God. But when it comes to leading in the way people need he falls short. The team longs for more direction but they aren’t getting it. He just gets up, sings, all the while directing people to “follow” along since he learns by ear.

    So what about these types? Where they feel a STRONG calling to lead worship, they are rooted in that calling, but they just can’t fathom why people aren’t responding to their leadership. And when you come to them with wisdom as to why that isn’t is they get hurt and feel as if you are saying, “You aren’t good enough for this job.” And it’s not that they aren’t good enough. You have just found out, over several months, that they aren’t BUILT for that ministry even though they believe they are.

    I have a good idea on what to say to them. That we love them and we need to find a different place for them to use their giftedness (maybe leading but being directed by someone who is able to administrate effectively).

    I like the line that says, in a nutshell, “You’re hired for your talent, your fired for your interpersonal relational skill or lack thereof.” What do you say to people who believe they are good at both but in reality they don’t see that they aren’t. That they hold onto the call when their brothers and sisters in Christ see a different result from their ministry than they do.

  • Tim Studstill Says:

    David, Great thoughts. Recently I heard someone say, “the grass is always greener under your own two feet!”

    There are times when God moves us to new areas of ministry, however there are times when God is grooming us to be more like him. New is not always better, Bigger is not always greater, Closer to home is not always where God chooses to plant us, etc.

    It seems that the top three things that tend to precipitate change are interpersonal relationships, musical skills and spiritual conflicts (moral/ethical choices). There are so many challenges our “minister musicians” face at church, home and elsewhere…we need to pray for each other and seek to encourage each other. “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8) This applies to “us” and to “them”! We are all on the journey together.

    Called for the Journey……

  • Bill Says:

    I think that as humans we struggle with treating leading worship differently than any other secular job. So when we become dissatisfied we start looking around for another opportunity. We quickly forget who we are leading and why.

    Without keeping our focus on Christ, our leading will be no different than any other secular manager. This Christ-centered focus, changes us from leaders to servant leaders serving the Kingdom, and putting the needs of others before our own desires.

  • Steve Hotra Says:

    Wise and true words. Anyone can sing and play the songs, but having a true heart of servant leadership takes time to develop ( if possible) As a full time music pastor in his mid 50’s, I was called to leave one established ministry ( good pay, health insurance, etc) to go to a church plant ( working a part time job to supplement my income) But I love where God has placed me: in the beginning stages of something fresh and new. A place where I get to develop new worship leaders and tech ( skills and spiritual). God does provide for all of our needs, and He will bless us with new skills for a new season.

    Thanks for your insights!

  • Shannon Waldron Says:

    I love these words of wisdom! I’m at my very first church and I have been there for 4 1/2 years. I am very thankful that I can say honestly that I was created to lead worship. I received my calling many years ago and nothing gives me more energy and drive for ministry than to do just that. I’m starting a new ministry that is exactly what I felt God’s calling on me many years ago. I’ve been trying to find a balance between getting this new ministry started and being at my current church simultaneously. I needed the reminder that sometimes things are not convenient, personalities and style of communication don’t mesh, but that God never promised it to be perfect and pleasurable at all times. I appreciate the encouragement to continue to just pour myself into the people, and not get caught up in the other things that are frustrating. Thank you.

  • Jonathan Riggs Says:

    Insightful post, David. What a worship leader does off the stage is always more important that what he does on the stage.

  • Jerry Fleming Says:

    I learned early that a long stay was beneficial to me and those with whom I ministered. The problem in this day is that sometimes ministers do not have a choice in their tenure, But, then, that is another blog. Thank you for sharing.

  • Neil Brown Says:

    An old adage comes to mind here, David: “Wherever you go, there you are.”

  • Alden Schoeneberg (@alden_t910) Says:

    This is so important for all of us to hear, David. I have left when I wanted to stay and also stayed when I wanted to leave.

    There have been times when I’ve had to ask myself the question of calling and search deeply for an answer. For me the times I doubted my calling as a worship pastor were directly related to how difficult and painful it was to keep doing ministry during that particular season in my life. In order for me to regain the perspective I had to imagine myself in a vacuum where the critics and hardships didn’t exist. In that silence I could hear God’s unchanging voice once again. Once quitting and leaving were off the table as options, I was free to lead.

    As long as leaving and quitting remain in the front of our minds, it becomes natural to “go through the motions” of ministry. Unintentionally our leadership stalls and our relationships suffer. As a result of our lacking leadership people no longer follow us. We are, in a sense, leading them to lose interest.

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